Fireside Chat: Annihilating Digital Overspend: How a global surfboard brand spends nearly zero on digital advertising.
Counter to the ‘count them in, count them out’ approach to digital spend in online advertising, Firewire Surfboards has created some of the most recognizable brands in the surfboard industry by crafting messaging that acts as editorial and doesn’t require digital spend to interrupt or ambush potential customers.
Firewire instead produces advertising that truly benefits the media outlets that are endemic to surfing, and also supports Firewire’s business goals.
With an in-house production operation, Firewire is able to highlight the work of Kelly Slater, Rob Machado and other marquee athletes and their products, as well as initiatives around sustainability, such as Firewire’s EPS upcycling program, turning waste from surfboard production into paving stones used to make paths, walkways and more.
For example Firewire produced this clip for Instagram use and it’s various edits and re-edits have earned success well above previous advertising initiatives in the traditionally un-exciting surfboard traction market; Says Chris “We’ve got two goals for a clip like this: Firstly we want to immediately present the packaging so that our audience can recognize it on a wall at a surf shop - this is textbook Andrew Ogilvy, who many people know as the influence for Don Draper's character in Mad Men - and secondly we want to engage our audiences mirror neurons as discussed in Martin Lindstrom's ‘Buyology’ back in 2008 - we’re intending to bring our viewer into the excitement of setting a up a new surfboard and we’re inviting them to experience it through their point of view."
Further, this video with Rob Machado has become the most watched video about a surfboard ever on YouTube, furthering Chris’s point about creating “experiences”. He says that “This video is an experience that our audience wants to be inside of - it’s a conversation they want to have with Rob over a glass of wine on the sand after a surf in France. And t’s very different than the traditional ‘watch this guy surf better than you can’ advertising that our industry has been propagating since it’s inception… this video engages you conversationally and emotionally”.
But emotion isn’t enough when commanding nearly $1,000 AUD for a surfboard and through in-house productions (Chris is quick to point out at how minimal of an expense this can be done with) Firewire is able to present ‘intellectual justifications that support customers emotional leanings’ for example this videowith Kelly Slater. Chris says that "many surfers have an emotional impulse to purchase Kelly’s boards but I think the price tag of our surfboards requires more than an impulse, and it often requires a product review or an educational moment to inspire a buy, so we directed Kelly towards the type of content that is normally produced by customers who compare products - a review."
“At the end of the day” says Chris “our job is to illustrate how our boards can enhance your surfing experience, because they definitely do, in fact, I joined Firewire because I simply found myself surfing their boards more than those of other brands. They were better for me.”
Chris addresses digital overspend bluntly, saying that “Editors and writers and curators at both new and legacy media companies are facing the same challenge - they need to write, film, edit; create content to push through their outlets and keep their consumers engaged…so the question we all have to ask is this - ‘how can I create something that saves the needs of the media companies endemic to my audience and potential customers?’, because if you can create that content and make it something that has more merit than just a pure advertisement, you’ve incentivized these media companies to spread your work for you at no cost."
Through a partnership with Matter Design, Firewire has created an online hub that presents beautifully on mobile and desktop, enabling both the emotional engagement and intellectual education it takes to sell surfboards at retail, and online, which Firewire will do in Australia for the first time in 2019.
Nigel Poole at Matter Design cites that “Much of what we do is develop web applications and software that enable discovery of the kind of excitement and education that Firewire produces. When we first sat with Firewire we saw quickly the ways that we could draw attention to Firewire’s website without relying on digital spend - for example creating the most useful Volume calculator the industry has seen, and creating an ability for surfboard customers to immediately and intuitively sort surfboards by volume and immediately purchase them."
Sound tricky? Not familiar with Volume? “It’s a measure of foam mass in a surfboard” says Chris; “If you weigh 220 pounds like me you may surf 35 liters of volume. If you weigh 170 like Nigel, you may surf 26 liters of volume - that is much less foam volume than someone of my weight would need. The amount of foam mass you need in your surfboard depends on your weight and skill level.’